By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 25, 2008
Under a subpoena threat from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the Environmental Protection Agency late Wednesday sent the panel a copy of its Dec. 5 proposal to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act -- as a brief loan.
Three Senate Democrats -- Boxer, Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) -- huddled together with their aides to review the documents, which were e-mailed to the White House Office of Management and Budget last year in response to a 2007 Supreme Court decision on the matter. The senators had to return the document after reading it.
The White House never opened the document and instructed EPA to retract it. Instead, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson backed away from the conclusions that he and his staff had reached and last week issued an "advanced notice of proposed rulemaking" that invited public comment on the question of whether to regulate emissions linked to global warming. It took no stand on the question the court had asked it to address: whether global warming poses a threat to human health or public welfare.
Boxer and her aides were allowed to take "reasonable notes" on the original proposal, which had concluded that greenhouse gases endanger public welfare. Among the points in the e-mail:
· "The Administrator believes that there is compelling and robust evidence that observed climate change can be attributed to the heating effect caused by global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
· "Based on the evidence before him, the Administrator believes it is reasonable to conclude current and future emissions of greenhouse gases will contribute to future climate change.
· "The Administrator is aware that the range of potential impacts that can result from climate change spans many elements of the global environment, and that all regions of the U.S. will be affected in some way.
· "The U.S. has a long and populous coastline. Sea level rise will continue, and exacerbate storm surge flooding and shoreline erosion.
· "In areas where heat waves already occur, they are expected to be more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting.
· "Wildfires and the wildfire season are already increasing and climate change is expected to continue to worsen the conditions that facilitate wildfires.
· "Where water resources are already scarce and over-allocated in the Western U.S., climate change is expected to put additional strain on these water management issues for municipal, agricultural, energy and industrial uses.
· "Climate change also introduces additional stress on ecosystems which are already affected by development, habitat fragmentation, and broken ecological dynamics.
· "In sum, the Administrator is proposing to find that elevated levels of [greenhouse gas] concentrations may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare."
After reading that, Boxer said she will continue to press for a fuller public examination of the administration's climate policy.
"It is more than outrageous that documents that pertain to the health and safety and very lives of our citizens are being hidden from the American people," Boxer said in a statement yesterday. "I will continue the fight on their behalf to let the sunshine in."
EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said the Dec. 5 e-mail does not shed new light on the issue. "The document Senator Boxer is quoting is a pre-decisional draft document," Shradar wrote in an e-mail. "There is nothing new here."